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Pope Francis refuses to let worshippers kiss his papal ring in bizarre footage

Bizarre footage of Pope Francis repeatedly pulling his hand away as people try to kiss his papal ring has emerged following his visit to a Italian pilgrimage site.

Faithfuls were greeting the Pope after mass at the Holy House of Loreto, with many seeming desperate to kiss his right hand - a traditional sign of respect.

The Pope can be seen swiftly moving his hand away from the lips of Catholic worshippers, some of whom dive in to kiss his ring.

The Pope remained polite, smiling despite appearing almost reluctant to shake hands with some devotees.

The Pope appeared to try his best to avoid all ring kisses. Credit: Vatican News

The awkward exchanges vary between worshippers but it appeared some were quick enough to snatch a kiss on the ring.

The Vatican did not reveal why the Pope was so reluctant to have his ring kissed but an aide, on the condition on anonymity, said: "Sometimes he likes it, sometimes he does not. It’s really as simple as that."

The papal ring, also known as the Ring of the Fisherman, is entrenched in Catholic tradition and is subject to some unusual protocol.

When a Pope is selected, he receives an individual ring with his own name engraved on it and until 1842 the signet was used as a seal to certify important documents.

When a Pope dies, the ring is immediately destroyed to ensure that during the selection of a new Pope, nobody tries to falsify official documents.

The Pope was less protective of his ring on this occassion. Credit: AP

The video received mixed reaction, with some Catholics calling for an end to ring kissing and others suggesting he should quit if he doesn't like the tradition.

Jesuit priest Russell Pollitt wrote on Twitter: "It’s high time kissing bishops’ rings disappears altogether.

"It’s just ridiculous and has nothing to do with tradition.

"It’s an import from monarchies. Much of the pomp around bishops should be ditched."

Rorate Caeli, a website read by Catholics, tweeted: "Francis, If you don’t want to be the Vicar of Christ, then get out of there!"

In contrast, Papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, a supporter of Francis tweeted: "He’s making sure that they engage with him, not treat him like a sacred relic.

"He’s the Vicar of Christ, not a Roman emperor."